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Michelob Ultra’s Super Bowl commercial transforms its do-gooder gesture into an ad stunt

To promote its Pure Gold organic beer, the brewer vows to turn six square feet of farmland organic for every six-pack sold.

Michelob Ultra’s Super Bowl commercial transforms its do-gooder gesture into an ad stunt

One of the most significant costs holding back traditional farmland from becoming organic is the sheer cost of that transition for farmers, which is often insurmountable.

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Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, of course, understands this as well as any brand of premium suds can, given its status as the first national beer brand to be USDA-certified organic.

For its forthcoming Super Bowl ad, then, Michelob Ultra Pure Gold is pledging to help offset some of those costs to farmers who want to go organic.

There’s only one catch: It’ll only do it with your help.

The deal is that for every six-pack of Pure Gold you, Joe Six-Pack, buy (that’s about $8 at Target), AB InBev, the $129 billion market-cap global beverage conglomerate, will pay to convert six square feet of farmland to organic. Six beers for you, six square feet of land for a farmer.

It’s an attractive proposition! What better way to utilize a marketing budget than to offer us beer drinkers an incentive to buy their brew that also gives our enviro-conscience a snuggle? It’s quite a departure from Zoe Kravitz’s beer-inspired ASMR ad from last year’s big game, but it also aligns pretty well with AB Inbev’s 2025 sustainability goals. Last year, Budweiser, a sister brand in the AB InBev stable, used some of its 2019 Super Bowl time to celebrate its commitment to renewable energy.

The new Pure Gold ad has that same feel-good factor, but at least at first, I also caught the whiff of something that felt like emotional extortion: Buy a six-pack, or else farmers will keep dumping chemical fertilizers into the earth! Just as when brands offer to give a backpack to a child in need of one for every backpack sold, the question arises, why not just buy those kids the backpacks they need and then use the goodwill from that decision as a marketing device? Here the question is, why not fund as many farmers’ organic transitions as possible and then create a Super Bowl spot from their inspiring stories?

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A source close to AB InBev tells me that the thinking with this program is that they know consumers want to help and be a part of giving back and creating change, so by connecting a purchase to impact, they are able to be part of the program with the brand. Michelob has also partnered with the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) Foundation to provide technical assistance to farmers as they navigate the move to growing certified organic crops. “We are eager to help farmers transition to organic production through the visionary Contract for Change program,” said CCOF CEO Kelly Damewood, in a statement. “Michelob Ultra is truly an organic champion and we are inspired by their commitment to helping farmers overcome barriers, while advancing the benefits of organic agriculture throughout the United States.”

The other part of this impact-as-ad-stunt strategy is how it remains a high-profile band-aid to social and infrastructure problems that need broader, more substantive solutions. Michelob Ultra helping farmers transition to organic is great, but is the company supporting politicians that advocate for the government to make changes in current policy to help do the same? Domino’s made headlines when it started paving potholes all over the United States, but it didn’t quite spark a national conversation around infrastructure investment. (Though as the joke goes, it’s always infrastructure week.) Last year, AB Inbev bought Super Bowl ad time for Natty Light across 5 of the top 10 cities with the highest rates of student-loan debt (Columbia, South Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; Little Rock, Arkansas; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia) to promote a contest to pay off up to $1 million of student-loan debt. Despite all those feel-good vibes, it doesn’t tell us anything about the company’s thoughts on student debt forgiveness or tuition control overall.

So buy a six-pack of Pure Gold to support the growth of organic farming, I guess? Let’s hope that there’s a follow-up spot on all the acreage that’s been transformed as a result.

Otherwise, it’s just more empty ad calories.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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